Monday, December 19th, 2011
On boingboing dot net, there’s a fascinating discussion going on about the growing number of people getting diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Â The controversy involves the questioning of whether or not this represents a true increase/explosion of ASD, or attributable to better diagnostic tools, more awareness of symptoms and better informed parents and professionals. Â Where the controversy begins to get really lively and heated is when suggestions are made that parents are doctor shopping in order to get the diagnosis they want in order to get the services they want. Â The discussion further devolves while paring down the possible motives by some parents, to being purely financial.
Controversies are sometimes a created illusion, which misses the truth of a situation. Â In this situation, painting this as an either-or scenario is misleading. Â The tension of opposite camps on this matter hides reality. Â What is the reality? Â The reality is that the apparent rise of ASD is because of increased sophistication of diagnostic tools and awareness AND there are parents unfortunately, who needlessly overreact to their child’s behaviors and can only see what they want to see. Â Are some parents trying to stuff their kids with anxiety disorders and/or other social/sensory/behavioral struggles into an Asperger’s diagnosis? Â My guess is yes. Â However the debate of which is true is one that misleads. Â It’s both.
Corresponding with the increase in the numbers of reported cases of childhood autism is the reported decrease in “developmental delays, cognitive disorders, or mental retardation.” Â There was a time when children with ASD, particularly those with more classic autism, were misdiagnosed with developmental or cognitive disabilities, aka, mentally retarded. Â So, there’s a trade-off in terms of some of the numbers.
I started working with kids and families with Autism Spectrum in 1994, while I lived in CT. Â Since then I’ve helped kids and teens directly and consulted with many families on things like school placement and parenting issues. Â I’ve also been a school director of a private day school where at least a good 60% of the students were somewhere “on the spectrum.” Â Â I’m saying this because I do know the lay of the land. Â The suggestion that many or most parents are shopping for the diagnosis of Autism is really ignorant of the realities. Â Autism is not some light diagnosis that has any cache, or is “desirable,” and the stresses of parenting a child on this spectrum can be enormous.
The LA Times series on which this Boing Boing discussion rests can be found here.
[via Richard Wanderman]